International Business

The Evolution of Analogue and Digital Music

Marko S Hermawan & Pascalis Andrew Heyzer

Binusian 2017 – International Business Alumni

The History of analogue music

Analogue music had been around for over centuries, as long as the invention of recorded music or lived performed music was first established as far as we are concerned. Analogue music could be categorized in such a diverse way, starting from live musical performance, up to studio musical recording. The analogue of the concept of analogue music itself is derived from the sound of solo musical instruments that are harmonized together with different other musical instruments and voices that then the continuous harmony would be established into the music we know of. The origin of music had always been unknown, although experts predict that the conceptualization of musical anatomy had been around over 60,000-300,000 years ago (Black, 2013). Although music technically had been around for hundreds of years, the true conceptualization of derived harmony and melody started to show its true colours during the renaissance period in the 1400s. During this period, we start to see music that is based on modes, and a richer texture in conceptualizing harmonization and melody. We also start to see a new, richer broad diversity in chord progressions as well (Lumen Learning, n.d).

Leading back to the understanding of analogue music, we now focus on the era in which the birth of rich harmonious takes place in which is the renaissance era. During this era, string and wind instrument is prominent in shaping the harmony of the classical music we know of. The organ instrument is also a predicament instrument that had been used throughout for hundreds of years. In-fact, the organ was thought to be invented in the year 220BC and had been seen mostly used and heard during the middle ages, right up to the renaissance period. Although, the 14th and 15th century saw a new kind of keyboard during the renaissance technological innovation, and later in the year 1700, the modern piano we know of today is invented by Bartolomeo Cristofori (Cazaubon, 2012). The piano is a very prominent analogue instrument that has such a recognizable and distinguishable sound when being created into a melody (Dolge, 1978). Although the piano is mostly known to be a soloist instrument with the likes of Beethoven and Mozart developing and spreading its popularity throughout the bourgeois social community during the renaissance period, the piano is also conceptualized as a merging instrument in an orchestra basis, where lots of different instruments and sounds are comprised.

To conclude the renaissance period, the theoretic basis of analogue instruments comprised and developed into a rich texture in melody and harmony started during this era, and prominent instruments like the piano are what takes the shape of the modern music we know of today comprising of similar notations in songs and melodies that takes place from the anatomy of the sound of a piano. The renaissance period is a very important segment in our history in shaping the musical genre and trend that exists today, and the role of the birth of a new melodic diversion in the music of the renaissance era conceptualize the definition and shape of analogue music in general terms. As we discuss further on, we start to see the development in analogue music with the progression of analogue technology appearing in the latter part of the 19th century and early 20th century.

By the time the late 19th century arrived, the industrial revolution had occurred, and an abundance of new analogue technology had been discovered such as the steam engine that had been an overstated ark of new-era technology at the time. (when is the first technology show up? Reference? general). Although in the music industry a new analogue technology had just been recently invented, forever changing the way people would listen to music forever. In 1860, Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville captured the first-ever recorded voice in Paris (Fabry, 2019), and soon on later, music would soon be recorded and sold amongst listeners throughout where then the birth of the record started. The invention of the Victor Talking Machine Company in 1901 revolutionized the music industry, and the change in the century saw a new analogue technology that re-immerse a much wider scale of listeners around the world in different backgrounds (Gioia, 2011). Music was not only for the upper-class community, but even the middle-class can now enjoy music at the comfort of their own home.

The Victor Talking Machine or also known as the gramophone, soon became predominantly popular throughout the 1920s and forward, starting with the boom of the Jazz era in the roaring 20s (Gabbard, 1995). During this era, music was for the mass, and almost everyone, including the middle-lower class, people can enjoy music through the increasing boom in Jazz clubs that played live music. Predominantly, live music that was popular with the likes of big bands and orchestras at the time became hugely popular in the US, especially. The Jazz era was also an era of glamour in which music became a part of a day to day life for most people, and an incurrent source of entertainment for the mass (Baker, 2017). Going back to the predicament importance of the recorded labelling of music, the boom of record label companies started to infatuate the musical industry furthermore reaching the peak of analogue musical technology of its time. Large label company names started to appear, such as the like of RCA record that is owned by Sony music the US, Columbia records, Arista records, Epic records, etc. (sarnoff, 1988). With the highly competitive record label companies competing against each other, the music label business soon became a humongous source of income revenue, and the music industry became a business sector for large corporations in the label industry.

Figure 1. Victor Talking Machine Source: (2014)

With the boom in the jazz swing era acquainted with the development of huge label corporations taking over the music industry, we can say that this period in our history is one of the most important eras related to the shaping of the analogue music industry in the 20th century. We see the resentments in the popularity of record labels, and how this industry had changed the music industry, but also with the increasing number of band performance being acquainted in different fields, furthermore actuating the musical presence of the analogue instruments that had been used for over centuries. The strong presence of orchestral arrangements in music halls right up tonight gigs in jazz clubs and bars in the period had taken a strong integral presence to the history of live music, up to this present day (Atkins, 2003).

The rise of digital music

As record label becomes more refined as time goes by and as technology developed, the fundamental change mainly occurred in the size of records, as portability became the stigma letting smaller size records popularized in the late part of the 20th century, specifically the 90s. We, of course, know these ‘small records’ as CD, which allows a much clearer sound quality being able to hold more files retaining a smaller portable size. The rise of the VCR cassette player also became prominent during the late 80s and 90s due to its size and sound quality compared to its more primitive predecessor the record. We can predominantly say that the era of VCR and CD is the bridge between the evolution of change in analogue music into digital music. It was also a turning phase of the century, and there are predicament changes in the musical phase as the analogue era of music was coming to an end replaced into digitally integrated music (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, 2011).

With the highly increasing popularity and relevance of the internet in the late 90s and early 2000s, music was being supplied in a different and new way. Music is now able to be downloaded through the internet using what we call an MP3 file. This is the next evolution of attaining music and the start of a new era in the early phase of digitalization. No longer do people need to buy CDs and a CD player but are now able to download music for free through the internet via MP3 (Cole, 2019). Although, this arises a huge problem for many individual artists that sprue the issue for content originality. As a result, the new digital age of MP3 file created copyright issues for artists and musicians, as music files could then be duplicated and pirated and then shared online without the consent of the label company that produced the music at the beginning. One particular case of an example of an online platform that led to the infringement of un-copyrighted music that led to piracy policy was Napster. Napster was an online music sharing platform on the internet that enabled people to download shared music contents for free, but as the problem arises in copyright issues leading to boards of legal settlements to the label company producer (Abiyusuf, 2018).

Digitalization in the early 21st century has greatly changed the way music production had been distributed compared to its previous analogue era. With the rise of the internet era booming the new millennium, data can be acquired so much more easily and attainably. With unlimited files able to be uploaded to the internet, this serves a purposeful problem to the infringement of copyright issues between label producers and recording artists and musicians in the early 2000s. However, let us aside from the effect of digitalized music into the music recording and distribution and focus on the preference of musical genre itself. Music was changing in the changing phase of the millennium as a more acidic digitalized sound became more apparent in the music of the 21st century compared to music made decades ago.

The evolution of musical instruments

As we learned, the musical instrument is the melody maker and the harmonizer to a tune. It is what shape the actual harmonic melody of a song, and with a different type of sounds that many each different instrument, produce would then create into something many would call a piece of art with the creativity derived from the individual instrumentalist. As we discussed, one of the most prominent musical instruments that had been the most recognizable and iconic in so many different ways is the piano. Starting with the acoustic piano that had been around for many centuries now, there are so many versions of the predominant iconic musical instrument we know off as we shall discuss later. Aside from the iconic piano, other prominent musical instruments had been very recognizable and distinguishable for over centuries in creating melodies. These musical instruments include the guitar, bass, and the drums, and are the basic component in the contribution of shaping up a band.

With the acoustic piano being around for such a long time, many different versions of the piano started to arise, especially when this long fond instrument started to get synthesized and electronically dispersed in the latter part of the 21st century, predominantly the 1970s. In the mid-1960s, a new kind of piano had been invented offering a new kind of distinguished sound as we call it, the Fender Rhodes. The Fender Rhodes or more often simply called the Rhodes is a one of a kind piano as it is the first electric piano ever to be produced. This new electric piano later got the name as the electric keyboard and soon would revolutionize the musical genre, as the Rhodes became predominantly used in many musical productions in the 70s. One of the first artists who was heavily impacted with the Rhodes instrument was Jazz trumpet player Miles Davis, whom he got Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea to play the keys for him on his album recording bitches brew (Kirn, 2013). This album was very uniquely perceptual at the time which had sound annotation and melodic derivation that had never been heard of. The new electric keyboard sound added a different environment into the atmospheric debt of the music, and since then, many other artists including Stevie Wonder, up to the Beatles had started adapting the impact in the Rhodes instrument into their album (Katz, 2014).

Figure 2: Fender Rhodes, (2013)

Following with the success of the Fender Rhodes in the early 1970s, the Rhodes keyboard soon became a timeless icon that shaped a new sound for most musical hit standards of the time. It is also a decade in which analogue instruments were starting to transit into electrical technology, in which the electric piano and the electric guitar paved the greatest relevance that was intrusively predominant in the 1970s and 1980s. With the portable size of the Fender Rhodes, this offers the instrument to be easier to be transferred from places to places, making gigs for musicians easier as they move through different locations around the world. The Rhodes distinguishable sound soon became visible in many different genres of music at the time, including Jazz, Rock, Pop, and R&B (Chicago Electric Piano, 2013. The importance of the Fender Rhodes soon became apparent that this musical instrument became an iconic symbol in the musical world, shaping a substantial presence in the history of living and recording music. Soon after, many other companies tried to make their version of their electric piano such as Yamaha, Kawai, Korg, Casio, Roland, etc. Many of which successfully succeeded as they offer a different kind of electrical sound compared to the Rhodes with many other varieties, but none of these companies could imitate the distinguishable sound produced by the Fender Rhodes (Muenster, 2014). Yes, these companies were able to replicate the iconic Rhodes sound somehow merely, but professionals would be able to tell the mere difference between a genuine, authentic Rhodes piano sound compared to other brands that tried to make their version of their electric piano.

Of course, relegating the relevance of the Fender Rhodes is apparent to this article paper, as the Fender Rhodes sound became so distinguishable as an electric piano that even now we still here its distinguishable sound in live music all around the world, from small bars up to international stages within many genres of music. So many companies had tried to imitate a similar sound to the iconic Rhodes that even modern electric pianos today such as Yamaha or Roland are used as a substitute of the iconic sound of the Rhodes electric piano. As we shall discuss further relating the importance of musical instruments into live music, it is apparent that musical instruments itself are the primary base of live music performance (Jordà, 2007). To fully understand where the inferior line between the standing change in analogue technology into digital technology is underlined through the generation of change through musical instruments, and as we shall discuss later along with the article within artificial computerized music. However, this underlines the statement in the evolution of music and the slowing change from analogue to digital in the musical industry.

Another prominent instrument that was heavily relevant throughout the similar era of the Fender Rhodes electric piano was the electric guitar. First patented during the mid-1930s by a company called Electro String Instrument, the electric guitar never got its popularity right up to the 1950s when Les Paul created a solid wooden body guitar with a neck which soon became introduced as the Gibson Les Paul in 1952 (Rickenbacker, 2019). The Gibson Les Paul soon became an iconic guitar becoming one of the first prominent distinguishable electric guitars. Due to its variability in its sound, the Les Paul Gibson was later used throughout several musical genres which include Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, etc. (Bacon, 2002). Following the success of the iconic Les Paul Gibson, another icon was about to be born competing against the prominence of the Les Paul. In 1954, the Fender Musical Instrument Corporation introduced their version of an electric guitar called the Fender Stratocaster. The Fender Stratocaster soon became an instant hit making it a major competitor to the Gibson Les Paul, as the Fender Stratocaster offers a substantial vibrato sound, as it is also the first electric guitar to offer three pickups (Mitchell, 2011). The Gibson Les Paul and the Fender Stratocaster remains to be the most iconic electric guitar up to this present day and is still being produced today with the same unchanged design structure, as its design had been relegated as a design icon of the 20th century.

Figure 3: Fender Stratocaster VS Gibson Les Paul              (2017)


Photo credit : 


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